Proper 27a – Sunday 6th November 2011
Matthew 25: 1-13
I’ve been dying to use this quote for weeks, but just after I discovered it (from one of BibleGateway’s blogs) the readings from Matthew changed from parables to narrative text! Just my luck.
But this week, as if to answer my prayer, Matthew returns to parables, and the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. However, as my predilection for The Message version of the Bible grows week by week, I suppose I ought to address it with their title – The Story of the Virgins.
Scott Hoezee, Director of the Centre for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, writes:
Eugene Peterson once suggested that parables are narrative time-bombs. These simple-looking stories lodged inside people’s hearts and imaginations, slowly tick-tick-ticking away until finally, BOOM, they exploded into a new awareness when the real meaning behind Jesus’ unpretentious stories about farmers and seeds and sheep and bread-making finally sunk in.
This is one of those parables. You read it. You think about it. You struggle with it. BOOM.
I must admit that every time I’ve thought about this story I’ve not been really able to get past the meanness of the five smart virgins. I know they were smart, I know they had enough oil, I know they realised that if they shared their oil there might not be enough to go around, but still … aren’t they just being a little mean? Could they not lamp-share?
But whenever I start thinking theoretically about how to get round this problem I come back to the two central themes of what Matthew likes talking about.
Alyce M. McKenzie over at Patheos sums it up just right:
One of the themes dear to Matthew’s heart is the theme of the anticipation of coming judgment. It is important for him to emphasize to his community two things with regard to Jesus’ return. One is that they don’t know when it will come, so speculation is futile. The second is that it will come, so preparation is crucial.
Speculation is futile. Preparation is crucial.
I’ve just read an interesting blog on this very theme. I recently attended the Christian New Media Conference in London and it was a most excellent day and had many challenging ideas for the Church. Vicky Beeching was the host for the day and I’ve since subscribed to her blog – which won the most prestigious award at the Christian New Media Awards!
Her most recent blog – Emergency – we need Church 2.0! – cuts straight to the heart of the matter and poses the questions we really need to be looking at. Do we continue to be a Church that is PASSIVE and STATIC or can we become ACTIVE and PARTICPATORY? Do we move from Church 1.0 to Church 2.0? How will we shape the Church of 2012? 2013? 2014? Are we still using the methods of the Early Church, or can we adapt social media and technology to help the Church prepare for the arrival of the bridegroom?
Three of the best questions that Vicky asks are:
- How would a SERMON look , that was crowdsourced and crowd engaging??
- How would WORSHIP 2.0 look?
- Does Church 2.0 need a BUILDING at all?
I can’t begin to put answer-shapes to those questions, I don’t even understand all the terminology! But as Matthew would endorse, speculation is futile, preparation is crucial. Sometimes we need to be risk takers. We need to stop panicking about what we think the church will look like in twelve months, and we need to start moving forward. We need to start asking the questions, and not just look at what the answers might be, but trying new ways, shaping new futures. As Vicky says, something of this is like Church 2.0 (Beta Test)!
What is certain is we need to prepare. If there is one lesson to be learnt from The Story of the Virgins then that is it. We need to be prepared. We need to adapt. We need to evolve. We need to test. We need fresh ideas. We need new vision. We need to accept that sometimes we will fail. We need to accept that not all our plans will be perfect. But then again, when ever has the Church been perfect? Roll on Church 2.0.